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The Little Things

Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want, 1943.

1,995 words

I think it is safe to assume that most Counter-Currents readers are familiar with the phrase “death by 1000 cuts,” which is an expression translated into English from the protracted Chinese torture process known as lingchi. In political-speak, its close cousin is the analogy of the slow boiling frog. Dissidents on our side of the great divide have an intuitive understanding that we’ve come to our current impasse through subtle but profound changes in policy and attitudes that our political enemies call “progress.”

Both expressions articulate a sense of victimhood, the notion that the trajectory into which our culture has been thrust is one forced upon us by malevolent actors through an orchestrated playbook. While I suffer no delusions concerning the very real and very anti-white organizations (such as the ADL and SPLC) that hold tremendous sway in shaping political discourse, and thus the contemporary attitudes of our society, I contend that our predicament could be just as fairly described as “suicide by 1000 pills.” To put it frankly, much of our suffering is self-inflicted.

Indeed, it is the little things that get us, the small changes that we willingly embrace because they seem to save us time, seem to save us money, or seem to alleviate stress, discomfort, or conflict from our lives. Be it in the form of new technologies, lifestyle conveniences, more options or choices, or more shortcuts, these things might superficially benefit us in the short term, but in the long term, they often serve to further alienate us, to deracinate us, and to retard us from living meaningful lives. They weaken the fibers of family and community that strengthen our society.

I’d like to draw some wisdom from personal anecdotes, the lived experience of a middle-aged Gen Xer who grew up in the semi-rural Appalachian south of the 70s and 80s.

I am the eldest child of a blue-collar working-class family. I grew up in a time when the service sector in our economy, which includes national restaurant and retail chains, was just beginning to expand and drive out small mom and pop local businesses. In the 70s, outside of the hustle and bustle of large cities, most people rarely ate meals that weren’t prepared at home. Fast food franchises were just beginning, however sparsely, to take a foothold in suburban communities, and most people considered themselves “lucky” to have a “Sizzler” steakhouse or perhaps a “Big Boy” serving comfort foods within driving distance. The endless corridors of Applebee’s, Chili’s, PF Chang’s, and Olive Gardens that you see in today’s urban hellscape didn’t exist back then.

Granted, most women were genuinely feminine in the maternal sense in those days, embraced their role as housewives, and demonstrated less grievance toward their families by preparing them home-cooked meals. In a society where people value family over materialism, there is naturally going to be a smaller market for fast food and restaurant dining, and as was the case back then, the occasional “family night out” niche could be filled by a local restauranteur or mom and pop diner.

The 1980s brought sweeping changes to small-town America as women began to flood the workforce en masse. By the 1990s, even two-parent middle-class nuclear families were beginning to depend on take-out dining and processed frozen foods for their nutrition on a daily basis.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m the eldest child of my family. I have one younger sibling, a sister. Though only a few years younger, she was quicker to marry and have children than I. By the mid-90s, she had given birth to two children and married a stable, dependable professional who afforded her the ability to stay at home, at least part of the time, and otherwise pick and choose transient work that amounted to “fun money.”

Yet, as I observed her behavior through those early adult years, it was clear that my sister had been poisoned by the worst selfish, narcissist aspects of modernity. She was basically a good person, but she rarely took the time to plan out home-cooked meals for her family, even when she wasn’t working. Her refrigerator was stocked full of frozen pizzas, TV dinners, French fries, and hotdogs. To be certain, her family never missed a meal and she didn’t evade her duty by at least popping things into the microwave or oven, but neither she nor her husband ever gave a second thought to the psychosocial havoc this was wreaking on their family, not to mention their physical well-being.

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My nephew suffered the most from her lackadaisical parenting. He became very spoiled from eating cheap calorie fast food. The breadth of his nutritional intake came from chicken nuggets, French fries, pepperonis, be they on a pizza or straight out of a package, and hotdogs. His grandmother (my mom) had to make sure her freezer was always stocked with the same garbage. It was so bad that he literally refused fruit, vegetables, soups, salads, or even meat that wasn’t served out of a frozen cardboard box.

Some nights, when the rest of the family was tired of processed junk, my sister, or her husband, might put a little more effort into cooking a real meal. Luckily her other child wasn’t as spoiled and would eat most anything he was offered, and I’m sure her husband welcomed the TLC of a home-cooked supper. They might even take this occasion to gather around the dining room table and eat as a family instead of in the living room in front of the TV. Yet, invariably, a frozen pizza or chicken nuggets had to be prepared as well if my nephew was going to eat anything.

By contrast, my mother and father were far from perfect, but this was not how my sister and I were raised. As young children, our only food that came out of a box was breakfast cereal. I remember my dad planting a vegetable garden every year when I was young, and my mother would can much of it in Ball or Mason jars. This only served as a supplement to fresh store-bought food, but we were content to have simple meals of beans, corn, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and occasional meats such as sliced ham or fried chicken.

Needless to say, by our teenage years my sister and I were relatively fit and healthy. But times were changing in the late 80s — my own mother was working more, and even she was lured into indulging the conveniences of processed, frozen, and fast food. This had the unfortunate consequence of setting a precedent and poor example for my sister from the get-go, and the quickly expanding service industry of the 90s was happy to oblige her “needs.”

So what became of my sister and her family?

Well, both my sister and nephew became obese. This put a strain on her marriage, and her husband eventually cheated on her (I make no excuses for him, but I’ve no doubts as to the cause). They divorced, and currently live in different states. Her children also live alienated lives, with the less nutritionally spoiled one moving to the West Coast, living as a bohemian, playing in a band, and undoubtedly participating in the Antifa riots, looting, and “peaceful” protests that define our times.

The narrative I’m weaving here is not about casting aspersions on my sister or anyone else. Lord knows that these same social carcinogens have colored my choices and damaged my life as well. I simply possess a more unique gift of self-reflection than most, and have been able to recognize the patterns that have shaped our lives over the course of time.

It’s the small things, the simple choices we make, the shortcuts we take, the bad habits we refuse to confront. These are the pills that collect in our systems and irrecoverably poison us. Destroying the things we should hold dear.

My example of choosing fast food, processed food, highlights the mind virus buried deep in our collective psyches: hyper-individualism coupled with materialism. Our ancestors understood that shared meals, prepared by mothers to be consumed together as a family, provided us a sense of unity. The proliferation of all-too-many choices in our consumer-oriented culture has eroded that unity. Even the seemingly harmless act of picking different meals off a menu at McDonald’s or Taco Bell has the unintended consequence of programming selfishness into the hard wiring of our children’s minds.

We have a choice not to do this, to not allow it to happen to the next generation. A gun was never held to my mother or sister’s head to force them to choose the easy route. With the understanding that the little things, these little choices and shortcuts, are shaping the minds of our children, it is clear that doing it differently might at least create an opportunity for a different outcome.

Personally, I consciously choose to prepare 90% of my meals at home, and I do not give my children a choice. The only frozen foods in my refrigerator are frozen vegetables. I don’t stock a wide variety of drinks, typically only milk, tea, and perhaps lemonade. At restaurants, my children drink ice water with lemon slices with their meal. More often than not, we share off the family size portion of the menu when we do dine out. I make no claim that this is a fool-proof child-rearing strategy, but at least I’m making proactive cognitive decisions about how my children interact with the society we are forced to live in. I’m not programming their minds to believe themselves the center of the universe.

I want to sum this up by pointing to this recent exchange as Tucker Carlson transitioned to his nightly introduction of Sean Hannity on Fox News.

After a critical segment on Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his obscene wealth, Sean Hannity takes a jab at Carlson’s less-than-enthusiastic attitude about unregulated capitalism. Predictably, Hannity defends Amazon’s corporate monopoly because Bezos offers “goods and services” that the public desires. Hannity always takes the side of big business over the good of the public at large.

How does this relate to the anecdotes I’ve offered about my family?

It is just another example of what we have all come to accept, to take for granted, and in some cases even embrace, in the name of ease, comfort, and perceived savings or efficiencies. The Sean Hannities of the world talk a good talk about family values, but refuse to address the mounting pile of elephant dung in the room that our overabundance of individual choices eventually creates.

The Sean Hannities of the world will applaud an endless dystopia of Red Robins, IHOPs, Subways, Golden Corrals, and Papa John’s, because of their endless choices of goods and services, while ignoring the 1200-pound family of four shuffling up to the potato bar in their oversized mustard-stained tee shirts. He’ll betray his vocalized family value beliefs by ignoring the fact that the divorced single mother of three who works at the buffet and stocks the pies is also working 2 other part-time jobs to feed her children while their disabled grandmother takes care of them. Oh, those amazing goods and services that people want, desire, and “need.”

Yes, it’s the little things, these seemingly innocuous small things that add up to create an unsustainable mess of a culture that is spinning utterly, and seemingly irreversibly, out of control.

The little things that start and end with you, with us, together.

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